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Allegheny County controller says proposed budget cuts could force layoffs

| Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner told County Council members Wednesday that she may have to furlough employees if a proposed 10 percent budget cut to her office is adopted.

“I hope we don't get to that point. Furloughs would have to be on the table,” she said.

Wagner spoke to council members and answered their questions for about 90 minutes during the first day of hearings on county Executive Rich Fitzgerald's proposed $799.4 million budget for 2013.

Directors of other row offices and county departments are expected to speak Thursday about their budget requests.

Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Bill Robinson, D-Hill District, said he expected county officials to announce a property tax rate on Thursday. Because of the countywide property reassessment, the county's property tax rate of 5.69 mills is expected to change.

Amie Downs, spokeswoman for Fitzgerald, said she expected the county to announce the rate by the end of the week.

Under Fitzgerald's budget proposal, the controller's budget would drop by $647,000 from $6.35 million to $5.7 million.

Councilwoman Heather Heidelbaugh, R-Mt. Lebanon, said she thought Fitzgerald's proposed cut to Wagner's office resulted from political friction between the two. Fitzgerald and Wagner have clashed over control of the Weights and Measures Department and the Port Authority, among other issues.

“I think he's sending her a message that there's some dissatisfaction with what she's doing in disagreeing with the administration,” Heidelbaugh said after the hearing.

Downs disagreed that the controller's budget allotment would force furloughs or that the cuts are political.

“We believe she would not need to lay people off,” Downs said. “We think it's an appropriate budget based on the level of audits and staffing she's able to provide.”

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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